“Dexter” ended in 2013, with its protagonist self-exiled to the frozen North and most major characters dead. But you can’t keep a high-functioning psychopath down. “Dexter: New Blood,” which premieres on Showtime on Nov. 7, finds Michael C. Hall’s Dexter Morgan working at a fish and game shop under an assumed name. His side hustles including bladesmithing, goat farming and maybe some vengeance.
In the intervening eight years, you may have forgotten a few details of the show — other than, say, its wildly unpopular finale. Here are a few mementos.
Dexter Morgan, born Dexter Moser, grew up in Miami, the adopted son of Harry Morgan (James Remar), a Miami Metro police officer, and his wife, Doris. He has an adoptive sister, Debra Morgan (Jennifer Carpenter). During the first season, it is revealed that Dexter also has a half-brother, Brian (Christian Camargo), and that the two boys witnessed their biological mother’s murder, via chain saw, and were left with her dismembered body in a blood-flooded shipping container for days. If you’re thinking trauma like that might make anyone into a serial killer, you’re right! Twice!
When Dexter was still a child, Harry discovered the corpse of the neighbor’s yappy dog, which Dexter had buried alongside other animal bones. Accepting Dexter’s antisocial tendencies, Harry channeled those impulses into hunting — first animals, then, as Harry put it, “other kinds of animals” who have escaped justice. With Harry’s permission, Dexter killed his first human at 20, offing a nurse who was overdosing her patients.
Dexter became a bloodstain pattern analyst for Miami Metro. Deb joined him there as a police officer, working first in vice, then in homicide, and in time becoming a detective. Eventually, Deb learned Dexter’s secret (walking in on your adopted brother mid-stab will do that) and later killed to protect him, which sent her spiraling. She also discovered that she was in love with him, an upsetting twist even for a show that specialized in upset.
Armchair psychiatrists watching at home have diagnosed Dexter as a sociopath and a secret schizoid. Dexter claims not to feel human emotion. He lets the audience in on his real thoughts through voice-over, like this one from the pilot: “People fake a lot of human interactions. But I feel like I fake them all. And I fake them very well. And that’s my burden, I guess.” As the original series progressed, Dexter seemed to move closer to authentic emotion, maintaining friendships and romantic relationships and enjoying a close bond with Deb, even as he never lost his need to kill. He personified that predatory urge as his “dark passenger.”
Is Dexter a bad person who does good things or a good person who does bad ones? Or neither? Or both? He loves a pulled pork sandwich and is surprisingly good at bowling.
Once he recognized Dexter’s death drive, Harry taught Dexter to adhere to a code. “There were so many lessons in the vaunted Code of Harry — twisted commandments handed down from the only God I’ve ever worshiped,” as Dexter put it. “One through 10: Don’t get caught.” Other rules: Never kill an innocent person. Kill only those beyond the reach of the justice system. Be prepared. Leave no trace.
Dexter occasionally violated some aspect of the code. (He was caught surprisingly often. But that’s what happens when you run for eight seasons.) But he killed the wrong person only once, and he rarely lets emotions cloud his judgment. He often killed when threatened, but he sometimes refused to kill people — even dangerous or inconvenient people — when they failed to meet Harry’s criteria. He has even released a few people from his kill rooms.
Unless acting in self-defense or within a significant time crunch, Dexter adhered to a specific ritual. Knocking his victims out with a synthetic opioid, he brings them to a plastic-draped kill room, decorated with photographs of their own victims. He undresses his prey, then binds them to a table with duct tape or cling wrap. Using a scalpel, he makes an incision on his victims’ cheeks, placing a droplet of their blood on a glass slide, adding the slides to his collection of trophies.
Before killing his victims, whom he refers to as his playmates, he often toys with them, engaging them in conversation. His preferred weapon is a knife, but he knows his way around a saw — and an anchor, a cleaver and a pen. After the kill, he dismembers the bodies, places the parts into plastic trash bags and dumps them into the bay.
By the time the original series ended, most major characters had died. There are Dexter’s direct victims, of course, a list that includes his brother, Brian; an ex-lover or two; and more than 100 others. Most of his known associates have also come to bloody ends, like his wife, Rita Morgan (Julie Benz), a victim of the Trinity Killer (John Lithgow), and several of Dexter’s co-workers, including James Doakes (Erik King), an antagonist, and Maria LaGuerta (Lauren Velez), his former lieutenant, shot by Deb in a bid to protect Dexter.
Deb died, too. (More on that in a minute.) But deceased “Dexter” characters often cameo, courtesy of Dexter’s vivid imagination.
The final season found Dexter stalking the Brain Surgeon, a serial killer with ties to a famous psychologist. The Brain Surgeon shot Deb in the abdomen. In the finale, she suffered a complication during surgery, a blood clot (way to work those metaphors) that left her in a vegetative state.
Dexter had planned to escape to Argentina with his onetime girlfriend and fellow serial killer, Hannah McKay (Yvonne Strahovski), a poisoner, and Harrison, the child he had with Rita. But Dexter can’t escape himself. As a storm approached, he murdered the Brain Surgeon. With a pen! Sending Hannah and Harrison ahead, he turned off Deb’s life support and absconded with her sheet-wrapped body, which he dumped alongside his other kills. The hurricane arrived, wrecking Dexter’s boat and ostensibly killing him, too. But the final shots find Dexter in some frozen waste, having grown a lumbersexual beard and invested heavily in flannel.
It’s an ending that no one saw coming. Probably because it lacked closure, retribution and attentiveness to Dexter’s journey toward personhood. Maybe the snowy new series, set in upstate New York, will provide that.